Caught criminals who wanted to steal a bronze frieze on Kerkplein


When miscreants tried to steal one of the copper frieze panels from Paul Kruger’s statue on Church Square in Pretoria, they did not count on the quick response of the police.

A group from the FAK was on a tour in the Pretoria city center this week when they came across the damaged statue.

Marné Scholtz, spokesperson for the FAK, says that according to an eyewitness, miscreants supposedly jumped over the top of the fence around the statue and tried to steal the frieze that way, but were caught in the act and arrested by the police. Two suspects were arrested.

“The Pretoria Central police station confirmed to the FAK that the frieze panel is in safe custody in a safe,” confirms Scholtz.

“The FAK was approached by the Tshwane Metro Council to help restore the panel to its full glory. The date of the restoration will be announced.”

Barry Müller, cultural organizer of the FAK, says the FAK will step in at any time and help preserve our heritage.

“The fact that the Tshwane Metro Council approached us to undertake the restoration project once again shows the credibility of our proud organisation. We are grateful that the police were able to act quickly and save this precious heritage treasure that would probably be destroyed and sold as scrap metal,” says Müller.

“We can’t wait to start the project. It gives you a warm feeling inside to know you can preserve our heritage for the next generation and we do it with pride and dedication.”

There are four copper frieze panels of the image on Kerkplein and these, like the image itself, were created by Anton van Wouw and the four panels depict important events from Paul Kruger’s life, explains Scholtz.

“The panel that was stolen is, as it were, a portrayal of the character of Kruger and shows his heroism and deep care. On the scene, Kruger appears at Makapaansgrot, where he carries the body of commandant Piet Potgieter, the son of the Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter, over his shoulder outside.

“In September 1854, the Ndebeles attacked a Voortrekker group led by AH Potgieter’s brother, Hermanus Potgieter, and together with him massacred 28 Voortrekkers. Piet Potgieter, then commandant general and Paul Kruger under him field cornet, were fatally wounded during a punitive expedition. Kruger went to collect Potgieter’s body under the barrage and almost died in the battle himself. Kruger was then 29 years old.

“The incident took place on 18 July 2023.”

James Boale, a heritage specialist from the Tshwane Metro Council, says they were shocked when they heard about the theft.

“We are going to meet with the police on Monday and hand over an official letter to them, so that the property can be handed over to the Tshwane Metro Council. We are grateful that the police were able to arrest the thugs,” says Boale.

“The FAK strongly opposes the destruction, theft and vandalism of heritage treasures. The state of heritage in South Africa as a whole is in an enormous crisis, but the quick action of the police in this case creates a glimmer of hope,” says Scholtz.